by Cole Lauterbach
Social media platforms that choose to suspend or ban candidates for office would face tens of thousands – or hundreds of thousands – of dollars a day in fines under legislation working its way through the Legislature.
The state’s House Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 1106 along party lines. The bill defines how a social media suspends, bans or reduces the exposure of an account. This is also referred to as “shadowbanning.”
Under the bill, the Arizona Secretary of State may fine a social media platform $25,000 a day for hindering the speech of a candidate for office. The penalty increases to $250,000 a day if the issue concerns a candidate for statewide office.
“This legislation seeks to reinforce the First Amendment, especially for political speech,” said State Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, of her bill. “Which I have personal experience in telling you it is a higher bar than regular speech.”
The legislation also provides similar protections for accounts identifying as journalists.
Amy Bos, director of state and federal affairs at the free-market nonprofit NetChoice, said Rogers’ legislation would stifle a private business from moderating its platform.
“It’s means violate the well-established First Amendment right to editorial discretion,” she told the committee. “The act compels online businesses to host content they’d otherwise remove or obstruct highly-inappropriate content that might not be appropriate for all viewers.”
Bos said a similar law was struck down in Florida last year.
The committee voted 6-4 to approve the bill. It had made its way out of the Senate in February.
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Cole Lauterbach is a managing editor for The Center Square covering the western United States. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.